Monday, December 3, 2012

The Measure of a Man

JJ Lee

JJ Lee’s The Measure of a Man contains three main storylines, all of which develop simultaneously throughout the book as we move back and forth between them, chapter by chapter. The first line is about Lee’s apprenticeship at the shop of a Vancouver tailor, a trade to which he has come only too late in life. Clearly, his dreams of one day becoming a tailor are as dim as the outlook for the profession, the larger (though not better) part of that market already being dominated by ready-made, off-the-rack stores. The second storyline is Lee’s reminiscences about growing up in Montreal, coming to know his father, and recognizing the harder and the flusher times of his family by the quality of his father’s garments as documented in photographs. As he grows up, Lee himself explores fashion. It is an exploration that we all engage in, one that begins with some experimentation in adolescence. But we truly never give it up—we just hope that the disastrous experiments of adolescence (see: hair, blue) are all behind us. The final storyline is about Lee adjusting an old suit of his father’s to fit himself, and is full of insights about the relationship between father and son.

Throughout the book, Lee shares many insights about fashion: not just about what to wear, but how to wear it, and more importantly about what fashion says about a person. The Measure of a Man is an enjoyable, Canadian read that will have you scrutinizing your own wardrobe, and those of others, to discover what kind of people we really are.

- David Brooke Struck

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